Immigration is one of the biggest issues of the midterm elections in the wake of President Donald Trump’s actions restricting immigration over the past two years.
Republican candidates are touting their support for Trump’s promised border wall and charging Democrats with wanting to abolish ICE, the federal agency that enforces immigration laws in the United States.
For their part, Democratic candidates are casting Republicans as indifferent to the separations of immigrant families at the southwest border. They say a border wall won’t solve illegal immigration and will waste billions of dollars of taxpayers money.
The political rhetoric on immigration often ignores facts and important nuances about this complex issue. Amid the campaign ads and rallies, here’s an overview of key topics.
Apprehensions at the southwest border
Border apprehension data is generally used as a metric to measure illegal immigration. The numbers reflect instances when border patrol agents get a hold of someone attempting to enter the United States illegally.
Immigration experts say that people interpret the numbers differently: some might consider high apprehension numbers an indication of effective border enforcement; others might say low apprehension numbers show that U.S. policies are working to deter illegal immigration in the first place.
The number of apprehensions at the southwest border in recent years is nowhere near the high levels of the early 2000s.
U.S. border patrol recorded about 1.6 million apprehensions in fiscal year 2000. That number dropped to about 905,000 in 2003 and rose again to more than 1 million in 2004 and 2005, before steadily declining from 2006 to 2011.
During President Barack Obama’s administration, apprehensions averaged below 500,000.
Trump has credited his policies for a low number of apprehensions in fiscal year 2017 (that year included about four months of Obama’s presidency). Border Patrol agents recorded 310,531 apprehensions nationwide in fiscal year 2017, the lowest since 1971.
Apprehensions of children traveling alone have fluctuated in recent years. They peaked in fiscal year 2014, at more than 68,500. Apprehensions of families traveling together have also risen and fallen in recent years, but increased from 2017 to 2018.
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